Thursday, June 04, 2015


speaking volumes

Last night I made inroads with Volume IV!  Shall I mention a few things from Volume III before we move on?  Horace Walpole to his inquisitive friend George Montagu, in 1756, from Volume III of the Letters (p.35):

"You bid me give some account of myself; I can in a very few words: I am quite alone; in the morning I view a new pond I am making for gold fish, and stick in a few shrubs or trees, wherever I can find a space, which is very rare: in the evening I scribble a little; all this mixed with reading; that is, I can't say I read much, but I pick up a good deal of reading."

His life as a country gentleman is appealing, no?  How about this, from the same to the same, on May 5, 1761, describing a spring evening in the country (p.399):

" Strawberry, where my two passions, lilacs and nightingales, are in full bloom.... Gray and Mason were with me, and we listened to the nightingales till one o'clock in the morning."

This period in his life is so interesting - in his early 40s he's withdrawing from politics while still observing them closely, spending more time in the country, and visiting other country houses, while building his own and furnishing it.  He's taking up correspondences with a few women, and will spend the next several decades writing to them, along with the men he's already been writing to for twenty years (and he pitches his letters to the specific recipients so well, regarding topic, tone, and word choice).  He's straying into Patrick O'Brian territory, too, with talk of naval battles and expeditions, and it's fascinating to read such similar language, yet not from a historical novelist, rather from a contemporary, as Walpole's time begins to overlap with the world O'Brian describes. 

I keep taking notes as I read - to what end I'm not sure - but it's an old habit and I enjoy it, so here we are.  More great words from Walpole, scattered throughout Volumes II and III of his Letters; it's a pleasure to write them out:



The end of Volume III is particularly verbose, as Walpole pulls out all the stops to describe to his far-flung friends the coronation of King George III and the weeks of hoopla surrounding it.  When it's all said and done, however, he says (p.443):

"Well! it was all delightful, but not half so charming as its being over."

Not being a fan of spectacle myself, I empathize - lilacs and nightingales for me too, please.  As the painter Renoir famously remarked:

"Give me an apple tree in a suburban garden. I haven't the slightest need of Niagara Falls."

Painting of course being on my mind, what with my solo show opening tomorrow evening.  Which I know I've already mentioned here twice, but these things do not happen often and thus bear repeating.  The next morning is the village book, plant, and bake sale, so that will be a wonderful thing to wake up to on Saturday.  And the lilacs - a huge old lilac hedge lives just across the street from our house.  It's in full bloom right now and the scent of it fills the breeze.  But no nightingales - they speak only in books in this part of the world.  We do hear hermit thrushes, though - one of my favorite sounds in the world, their song - and many other visiting beauties, at this time of year.  Ryan and I take long walks in the evenings, listening.

Congratulations on your solo- I hope it's a blast.
Have no idea what 'junkettaceous' is, but what a great sounding word! Ah, the heavy scent of lilacs - one of the few things I miss from the East Coast - the scent of the lilacs here doesn't carry. Different type maybe? Not hot enough?

Many congratulations on the show and embarking on your painting season. Creating something while being outside, can't really top that.
Dan, thanks, it was! Sold seven paintings at the opening and tons of people were out and about for the local art walk, so it was very busy. And now it's over and my quiet life resumes!

Julé - yes, being outside for ten or twelve hours a day when the weather is fine, and painting much of that time - well, I'm not going to lie! It's amazing! It is also exhausting, strange as that may sound. Naps will be taken.

The lilacs are going by, here - we live on a hillside about a mile from the ocean, and the air is humid, and the lilac scent carries...

A junket - or to Walpole a junkett? - is a trip, so when he calls his friend junkettaceous he is gently poking fun at the friend's penchant for continuous rambling. I have to say, it (unfortunately?) makes me think of the word bootylicious.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?